#91 a sound brand

It’s rare that I am “wow-ed” during a service experience, but I was yesterday.  For the last six years I have been impressed with my Bose SoundDock, so when I broke it last weekend, I knew I would replace it.

From the moment I dialed the number at Bose, the tone was different than most calls.  A man with a radio-quality voice welcomed me and said “to continue our tradition of service excellence, this call may be monitored.”  There was no wait.  The phone tree had two choices and then a very helpful man answered.

Long story as to why, but unfortunately I was one of those complicated callers.  I had to change the order.  I changed my email address twice.  I changed credit cards.  I changed colors.  I changed the shipping address.  And never once did he get annoyed.  “Not a problem, Miss” was his favorite line.

Bose sent me a pre-paid UPS label to ship my broken dock back to them, and as soon as the tracking number hits the system that it is en route, a brand new one (at the same price as a repair) will be sent to me.  How many service enterprises have that level of trust?

Yesterday, they did continue their tradition of service excellence and made me wonder what my organization could learn from the experience.   There was no delay.  There was no informal language like “ok”; the manners were as impeccable as the service.  They seemed happy to try and please me even when I requested multiple changes and had complications outside of the norm.  

My experience exemplified the Bose brand of delivering their “acclaimed performance” — in product and service.  If someone called your organization, would they leave feeling the same way?

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com



(Call for yourself:  888-581-2073)

#90 Hannah

One year ago today, I lost my beloved 14-year old golden retriever, Hannah.  The old girl had challenges walking for about a decade; she finally lost the good fight and was unable to stand.  I loved her deeply.

Four days later, I adopted a new golden retriever puppy, Abigail.  Many were shocked at this rapid turn of events.  When I returned to work after Labor Day and shared the news, the most common thing I heard was :”You did WHAT?!”.  I received sympathy messages from family and friends far away at the same time I was receiving new puppy toys from friends nearby.

Despite some of the disapproving comments and general amazement, I know that what I did was exactly right for me.  I have had a golden retriever in my house for all but about a week in the last 25 years.  I needed a new dog to fill the hole in my heart left by Hannah.  

So many of the decisions that we make in life are unclear.  There are often pros and cons, timing issues, risks and challenges.  When you are fortunate enough to KNOW that doing something is right for you, I’m all for going ahead and doing it.  What others think about your choice doesn’t matter if it doesn’t hurt them and it makes your heart happy.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#89 green apples

An international recruitment counselor was talking with me about the challenge of recruiting students from Asia to study at small, private colleges in the U.S. Midwest.  “Selling your school overseas is like selling Granny Smith apples,” he said.  “At first, people had one picture in their mind about what an apple looked/tasted like, and had to be convinced to give a green apple a try.  It is like that with U.S. higher education; people think of big, well-known schools on the coasts and they need to be convinced to try something else.”


Seth Godin writes about tribes and niches and embracing the “weirdness” in people.  It works both ways.  In addition to enticing clients to try a Granny Smith, organizations must be willing to seek out and welcome the clients that are outside of the norm as well.  Is your client base and market message too focused on the Red Delicious type of customer when you may be well served to expand into smaller markets beyond that?  Maybe there is a tighter fit with a smaller group of people and you should work instead to pair them with your organization.  

Instead of aiming to bring home the whole bushel at once, an apple a day may build a loyal following for you.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

(analogy by Carl Herrin)

#88 substitutions

In this era of truth-in-labeling, is it really right that movie theatres are allowed to ask “Do you want BUTTER on that popcorn?”.  Shouldn’t they have to say “Would you like us to soak your popcorn in a mixture of artery-gagging oil and butter flavoring?”.  

Does the CHEESE on your nachos really have any dairy element to it?  I am not sure that it is a by-product of a cow when the top two ingredients are whey and canola oil.  

We are masters of euphemisms when it allows us to rationalize behavior that we do not really want to avoid.  Do we do the same kind of double-speak when working with our customers or clients?  Is your “reconditioned” product really just “used”?  Are we charging “processing fees” instead of admitting that it is just an extra way to generate revenue without raising the main price point?  Are we calling something a “sale” when the final rate was the pre-planned selling amount?  Do we call staff “service representatives” and allow them to act as if they have no need to actually provide help to the caller?

I understand that asking a movie patron if they want “oil” on their popcorn is much less appealing and that literalism isn’t a practical way of functioning.  Just be conscious of your euphemistic substitutions so that your credibility doesn’t wiggle with your words.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#87 meeting of the minds

Due to a series of lucky coincidences, three of my former professional association colleagues and I were able to have brunch together yesterday.  What ensued was a 2-hour stimulating conversation about student affairs and higher education today.  It was delightful to share the depth of understanding that comes from decades of work with college students and to test observations against experiences from the four vantage points we have with the academy.


Some thoughts that surfaced:
— In our wonderful parent orientations on campus, where staff is warm and welcoming as they share phone numbers and contact information — are we unintentionally enabling the parents to handle their student problems instead of allowing the students to do so directly?
— The consequence of increased experiential learning is that it places even more demands on student time — and makes it more difficult for student life staff to gather their leaders for training throughout the year.
— There is a trend that shifted the standard language from student activities to student involvement now to student engagement, paralleling the term used by academic research in the area.  It also connotes a more comprehensive view of the ways students are experiencing learning on college campuses.
— There is a real challenge with male student involvement in organizations.  Fewer men are going to college; many of those who are have athletic pursuits which limit their time for other activities and others do not want to make the commitment that a serious leadership position requires.  This has consequences both on campus and in their lives/community afterwards.
— The focus of our work needs to remain centered on WHY we are doing it.  One said it best when he said that “learning matters most”.  If your program or department can’t demonstrate that it is contributing to student learning, then it needs to change or be eliminated.
— Part of higher education’s challenge is that it does not articulate the WHY in compelling ways.  Institutions talk about enrollment and graduation, but don’t specify in easily understandable and measurable terms WHY the institution exists.  So the de facto goal becomes “graduation” with too little attention paid to whether the student has the life and career skills necessary for success after they leave.  Advising becomes an exercise in accruing 128 credits, rather than an exploration of what a student wants to achieve in life and how a myriad of college experiences can be assembled to help towards that end.

Those of you who are not in higher education may not understand the details of the bullets above, but the specifics of our conversation are not really the point.  My biggest takeaway from today’s conversation was that my professional life is lacking a way to have deep, thought-provoking conversations with those who know what I am talking about and can add to the conversation.  Serendipity brought the four of us together, but I need to be more intentional about creating opportunities to share and reflect.  Anyone up for a think tank gathering?

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

(With thanks to the minds of Ken Brill, Tracy Knofla and Michael Miller)

#86 care by example

One of our service offices had a temporary table set up this week to handle the opening-of-school rush.  The person working had made a handwritten sign, on a piece of notebook paper, with the loose leaf “fringe” still attached.

Another employee walked up to the table and removed the sign, replacing it with a typed version.  “We’re better than that,” he said as he crumpled the original paper. 

I did not witness any of the above, but it made such an impression on someone who did that he retold the story to me and, no doubt, to others.  Little things do matter.  First impressions do count. 

Kudos to the employee who acted to improve the situation, instead of just complaining about it.  Rather than just shaking our head, let’s follow the example to take that extra few moments to make something a bit better in our organization. 

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#85 the high bar

In a training I led today for student employee supervisors, I advocated for setting expectations and holding students accountable to them.  Someone asked if we couldn’t create a university-wide standard instead so that she wouldn’t have to listen to students complain why her requirements were higher on her syllabus or in her work positions.  I think that she was missing the point.

If there were broad standards, they would very likely be much lower than the standards I set now.  Personally, I don’t need a policy as a cop-out not to own up to the fact that my bar is high; I am proud that it is.  I have greater expectations than (most) other areas because the best employees actually want high standards.  They are willing to put a lot of themselves into the game, because they know they will get more out of it. 

Student employees need to learn the life skill that different jobs (even on campus) have different expectations.  If they want to find a place that lets them sit there and do nothing, let them do it.  I want the students who want to work hard, learn lots and have a meaningful experience that will aid in their career and personal development.  I want the grapevine to carry the message that working in my office isn’t easy, but it is where you want to be if you can.

Never apologize for high expectations.  If you embrace “harder”, people who want to clear the high bar will gravitate towards you. 

I am reminded of the following quote:
When David Livingstone’s work in Africa became known, a missionary society wrote to him and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are?”  If he had, the letter indicated the society was prepared to send some men to help with his work.  Livingstone’s answer was clear and to the point.  “If you have men who will come only over a good road, I don’t need your help.  I want men who will come if there is no road.”

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com